The Ukrainian parliament passed Laws 5371 and 5161 on July 19. Among other things, they allow for the introduction of “zero hour” contracts and curtail the collective bargaining rights of workers employed in businesses with less than 250 workers — about 70% of the workforce.
Similar laws were introduced in 2020–21 and were then beaten back as a result of trade union protests. But prospects of a similar campaign are much harder now due to war and martial law. This makes international solidarity with Ukrainian workers facing down both Russia’s invasion and an anti-worker parliament all the more important.
Commenting on the laws, Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU) chairperson and parliamentarian Mykhailo Volynets said they would “lead to the violation of the rights of Ukrainian workers who are suffering from the war today and who are doing everything possible to help the country win the war and restore peace to the entire territory of Ukraine”.
The Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine (FPU) also voiced its protest against the bills: “Those who have attempted to weaken worker and union rights in Ukraine for more than a decade have now seized upon the wartime crisis to push through these provisions which failed repeatedly prior to the war.
“While promising steadfast commitment to the nation’s defense, Ukrainian unions stated strongly that the war should not be used as an excuse to gut worker rights, which will be critical to rebuilding the economy.”
The KVPU and FPU have received the support of the ITUC and European Trade Union Confederation for their campaign against these bills.
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow stated: “It is grotesque that while Ukrainian workers defend the country and care for the injured, sick and displaced, that they are now under attack from their own parliament while their backs are turned…
“We call on the President to stand up to the oligarchs and refuse to sign the bills.”
France’s main teachers and public sector union federation, Fédération Sindicale Unitaire, has also shown its support, issuing a statement on July 30 that said it “fully supports the Ukrainian workers, the KVPU and the FPU” and calls on the Ukrainian authorities to “withdraw this legislation, which jeopardises the fundamental rights of workers”.
Meanwhile, an international petition calling on Zelensky to veto the two bills has continued to garner signatures from around the world. The petition was initiated by the European Network in Solidarity with Ukraine (ENSU), which is also asking trade unions to send protest letters to Zelensky demanding he veto the laws.
[Sign the ENSU petition at change.org. Protest letters can be sent to President Zelensky at email@example.com, with copies to FPU firstname.lastname@example.org and KVPU email@example.com.]